If you’re facing the prospect of a Texas divorce and have children, you’ll likely be more concerned about the children than anyone or anything else. You’ll want to help them transition into the new life with the least amount of friction. You’ll also want to stay close to them as you possibly can and hopefully nurture your parent-child relationship while at it.

Fortunately, Texas law provides options for divorcing parents to maintain close relationships with their children through child custody and visitation. Understanding the key differences between these two family law concepts is definitely a step in the right direction.

What Does Custody Mean in TX?

Texas courts name “conservators” as those charged with caring for a child and making decisions on their behalf. Conservatorship refers to the sharing of child custody rights and responsibilities following a divorce. That’s to mean that conservators are the people responsible for taking care of and housing a child whose parents have since divorced. In Texas, conservators can either be the parents themselves, legal guardians, or a state agency.

The three common forms of conservatorship in Texas are:

1. Joint managing conservatorship (JMC)

In a JMC setup, the rights and duties of a parent are shared equally between both parties. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that both parents can make crucial decisions pertaining to the child’s overall well-being. That role is solely reserved for one parent, as outlined in the custody agreement or otherwise determined by the court.

2. Sole managing conservatorship (SMC)

If you’re on the right end of an SMC court order, it basically means you reserve exclusive rights to make all the important decisions regarding the child’s welfare. This could mean decisions about where to attend school, which hospital to visit when sick, and so on. 

But there’s one caveat to this setup—the non-custodial parent may still reserve visitation rights. 

In situations where both parents are unfit to fend for and take care of the child, the court may elect someone else as the conservator, such as a close relative.

3. Possessory conservatorship (PC)

If you’re a possessory conservator in Texas, it essentially means you’re the non-custodial parent and retain certain visitation rights to spend time with your child. Hardly is a possessory conservator awarded decision-making rights under Texas law. Possessory conservatorship is also sometimes referred to as “possession” or “access” under Texas custody law.

What Does Visitation Mean in TX?

Visitation (sometimes also called “access” or “parenting time”) is a legal term referring to the opportunity for a non-custodial parent to spend time with their child. In Texas, visitation do’s and dont’s typically come in the form of a Standard Possession Order (SPO).

A Texas SPO will usually outline possession guidelines for weekends, holidays, and Thursdays. In addition, if parents live far from each other, the SPO will have recommendations for ideal meetup days and exchange spots. For example, when you and your ex live more than 100 miles apart, you will get a month and a half with the child each spring break as well as during summer.

Of course, if the parties to a child custody or divorce case are able to agree to an amicable agreement on the issue of visitation, then they can have their own schedule added to the order.

So, What Truly Differentiates Custody from Visitation in TX?

The actual difference between visitation and custody in Texas lies in the fact that possessory custody might not always translate to limited or supervised visitation.

For instance, a PC could include a standard possession order but lack decision-making rights depending solely on the facts and circumstances of the case. Similarly, a JMC could limit the parent holding it to supervised or reduced visits for reasons not related to decision-making.

Get Further Clarity on the Matter by Contacting Our Attorneys Today

Undeniably, the issue of custody vs. visitation can get murky and confusing times.

When you reach out to the Texas child custody lawyers at Petrelli Previtera, we can answer your pertinent custody and visitations questions. We will also position ourselves as a team you can trust and call upon throughout the whole process, ready to swing to action at your convenience. It all starts with a simple call. A consultation with one of our attorneys will seek to cover every nut and bolt about your case, consequently putting you on the path towards a favorable, satisfactory resolution.